Climate and Agriculture in the Southeast

Georgia Climate Project: What species and ecosystems are most at risk?

Every week I am featuring a different one of the 40 research questions about the impacts of changing climate in Georgia from the Georgia Climate Project Roadmap. Today’s question comes from the “Ecosystems in Georgia” section. As the climate gets warmer, we can expect to see changes in the ranges of some species, but don’t always know what kinds of changes to expect. See the full roadmap at

7. What species and ecosystems are most at risk of population declines or extirpation due to climate stresses?

Why this question is important: Species distribution models have been used to predict climate-driven habitat shifts for a variety of taxa (Jeschke and Strayer 2008; Kearney and Porter 2009), including mechanistic models that rely on physiological data to predict species survival and evolutionary fitness in a range of environmental conditions (Chuine et al. 2000). These models, however, require a complex understanding of physiological characteristics of the species in question, few of which have been published to date. In the Georgia context, the 2015 State Wildlife Action Plan (Georgia Department of Natural Resources 2015) identifies several priority conservation actions for climate change adaptation for avian, terrestrial, and aquatic species, and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources is supporting further research into coastal species vulnerability. A further evaluation of existing data, tools, and research would add value, and further research is needed to improve predictive models of species decline and risk over time, and determine likely outcomes for ecosystems.